red petticoats

The Red Petticoats ladies clog dancing team started life in 1980. They were an offshoot from the Cloggies (youngsters from Ilfracombe College brought together by teacher Fred Ward to perform traditional North West clog dances) and were, in fact, the parents of those youngsters who fancied having a go themselves.
With Fred's guidance, they developed into a very proficient troupe who performed in public during the summer.
The name "Ilfracombe Red Petticoats" came from a story of courage and daring, dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. The story tells the tale of Betsy Gammon who saved the town (and the Country) from invasion by the French. The men-folk of Ilfracombe were away at war when two French frigates sailed up the Bristol Channel and moored off the coast of Ilfracombe. Betsy saw them and, fearing they would land, summoned all the women by the banging of a drum to line up on the hills right on the seafront. The women, at that time, wore red, flannel, petticoats and on Betsy's signal draped their petticoats over their shoulders. From their positions out at sea, the French thought there was a garrison of redcoats in the town and so they weighed anchor and sailed to Wales where they did land but were soon rounded up and imprisoned. That was the last time that the United Kingdom was invaded. The name "Betsy Gammon" has gone down in Ilfracombe folklore as the woman who saved the town.

Today, the Red Petticoats continue to entertain and delight the people of North Devon (and further afield) with their mixture of the traditional North West Morris clog dances along with dances from other parts of the country as well as some that have been choreographed by team members themselves. The team (or "side") consists of a dozen regular dancers and a band (a chance for the men to join in) of melodeons (squeeze-boxes), an accordian, trombone and - of course - a drum. The dances have names that come from the North West of England, such as Knutsworth, Clitheroe and Poulton (le-Fyle) and are danced to familiar tunes such as the British Grenadiers, Portsmouth and the Runaway Train. The side can be seen on Thursday evenings throughout the summer at various venues including Ilfracombe, Woolacombe, Morthoe, CombeMartin and Lynton. There is also the annual Tour of Exmoor which is done in a day at a number of different places. Each year, the side also joins in at the Sidmouth Folk Festival and spends a lovely weekend at the Swanage Folk Festival. They have also danced at the Royal Cornwall Show. At the local dances, a collection is taken and postcards and badges are available and at the end of the season donations are given to local charities.

It is great fun and keeps you fit. If you can spare some time on Thursday evenings (to practice during the winter and perform during the summer) why not give it a go? Don't worry if you think you can't dance, you can be taught (and there probably is a dance for two left feet). Or perhaps you fancy playing in the band? New members are always welcome.
All you have to do is see any team member or give the Squire a ring - call Jan Ellis on 01271 342351

You will always be welcome.



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